Stress in Dentistry: How Common Is It?

Posted by on Jan 30, 2023 9:00:00 AM

Stress is prevalent in many industries, but it has been proven that dentists often have higher levels of stress than individuals in other professions. 

In fact, in a study from Nature, more than half of dentists say that they’re not only stressed, but that stress is affecting their practice. 

So what should you know about stress in the dental profession? Here are a few of the causes for stress in dentistry and some ways to manage it: 


What Causes Stress in Dentistry? 

Economic Pressure 

While this can be true for any dentist, it is especially true for practice owners. Economic shifts and pressures can cause an increase in stress, particularly in times like the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Practice owners also face the day-to-day stress of business finances which is only exasperated during times of uncertainty. 

Patient Fears 

A patient’s fear of dental work may create a stressful environment for everyone in the office. Particularly if a dentist is seeing anxious patients in back-to-back appointments, the dentist and their team may experience high levels of stress without a chance to recoup. Patient anxiety can include excessive worrying and general fear of the appointment, which can curb a dentist’s ability to think clearly, maintain a calm demeanor, and calm the patient. 

Professional Isolation 

Dentists spend most of their days inside, and aside from an assistant in some cases, it is usually just the dentist, an assistant, and their patients. This isolation away from other people can lead to feelings of repetition and stress. 

In addition, dentist-patient relationships have to maintain confidentiality, which means there are a number of details about their day that a dentist cannot discuss with their family or friends after work. 


How To Manage Dentistry-Related Stress

1. Get Adequate Sleep 

In several studies completed by organizations like the ADA and independent organizers, sleep was found to play a large role in the stress levels of dentists. 

Only 8.1% of respondents who had seven or more hours of sleep per night experienced high levels of work-related stress. This percentage more than doubled (19.5%) for respondents who received less than seven hours of sleep.

According to the CDC, adults ages 18 to 60 need seven or more hours of sleep per night in order to retain good health and well-being. To help manage work-related stress, dentists need to consistently strive for this each night. If your sleep issues are severe or persistent, consult a physician. 

2. Take Time Away From Work

In addition to sleep, weekly work hours showed a correlation to stress. Dentists are known for having busy schedules with few breaks during the day. 

On average, those who said they experienced “severe” stress worked 39.7 hours per week and those who had “light” stress worked 31.9 hours per week. 

Outside of short breaks, non-work activities are shown to help control stress levels.  It’s important to take time away from work to exercise, participate in hobbies, spend time with friends and family, and more. 

3. Monitor Your Mental Wellbeing

The ADA discovered that dentists identified themselves associating with several symptoms of depression: 

  • 79.4% said they felt low energy. 
  • 55.8% said they blame themselves for things going wrong.
  • 34.9% felt hopeless about the future.
  • 29.1% had no interest in things.
  • 22.6% of these respondents also said they felt moderate or severe depression, with an additional 18% saying they had gone so far as to consider suicide within the last year. 

A contributing factor to these issues is stress, as dentists indicate going long periods of time with high levels of stress with few (if any) breaks. This makes self-monitoring — being aware of one’s own feelings and emotions — imperative to understanding stress. 


Protect Your Dental Career Today

Stress, anxiety, depression, and other similar concerns are difficult issues that many dentists are managing on a daily basis. 

Stress, along with anxiety, depression, and inadequate sleep may also present underwriting issues, which could translate to insurability risks.

By obtaining a disability income insurance policy early in your career, you may be able to add the option to increase coverage in the future without having to prove medical evidence of insurability. This can help mitigate concern of additional medical underwriting and allow you to maintain effective insurance coverage throughout your dental career. 

Contact us today to create a policy that helps protect you and your income, so you can focus on perfecting your craft and your own wellbeing. 

About Treloar & Heisel 

Treloar & Heisel is a financial services provider to dental and medical professionals across the country. Our insurance and wealth management divisions assist thousands of clients from residency through retirement. We strive to deliver the highest level of service with custom-tailored advice and a strong national network.

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